PUNXSUTAWNEY — After a week’s worth of wishing, the “Light Up a Child’s Life” campaign concluded with a $73,285 Friday finale.
The campaign’s contributions will be used by the Greater Pennsylvania and Southern West Virginia Make-A-Wish chapter to grant 21 wishes to area children facing life-threatening illnesses.
According to regional office assistant Kayla Danch, the final day of the annual week-long campaign, which wrapped up at the Pantall Hotel, was met with success due directly to the “generosity of the community.”
Bringing in numbers greater this year than the previous, the campaign was prosperous, according to regional director Pam Miller, despite current economic conditions.
“Regardless of where our economy is at this point in time, it really doesn’t matter, because the Punxsutawney community has become part of the Make-A-Wish family,” she said. “They always see us through.”
In addition to the campaign total, this year, the chapter raised funds to grant a wish in honor of the foundation’s own Patti Lellock. Reaching its $3,400 goal — the cost of one wish — the foundation will be able to give a once-in-a-lifetime wish experience to one more eligible area child, though this particular wish, however, will be in recognition of someone who, too, has struggled with sickness.
Normally, Lellock aids families in making their child’s wish come true, but for the past few years, Lellock has been facing illness firsthand considering the wish assistant was diagnosed with Devic’s Disease, an autoimmune disorder, three years ago.
“After working for Make-A-Wish for that long, I thought I understood. I had talked to parents that said their lives were going normally until one day, they were off to the Pittsburgh Hospital,” Lellock said. “I thought I understood, but until it happens to you, you don’t.”
Fighting on the front-lines, Lellock, who now has difficulty walking due to the disease’s attack on her spinal cord and optic nerve, was gifted with a walker from the Reynoldsville Fire Department Friday evening. And even though she notes how much of a struggle it can be to deal with such a disease from time to time, she continues to work for the foundation in spite of the illness she terms “frightening.”
Though having traveled down a hard road, Lellock continues to find compassion by imagining the experience of a child facing an illness of similar caliber.
“These past three years when I go to work, it’s not about me. It’s about helping others,” she said. “The people that I get to interact with every day are inspirational. People often say, ‘Why me?’ I’ve never said that because, then who? I’ve had a lot of inspiration from my wish kids and families over the past 10 years. And I can do it. I’m tough.”